Refund request following internal incidents during course

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Issue

1. This decision relates to a complaint lodged by [redacted] (“the student”) against their former Education Provider, [redacted] (“the provider”).

2. The student enrolled in the (Level 3 course name), full-time course with the provider in January 2018, paying the full course fee prior to the course commencement.

3. The student lodged an internal incident report with the provider on the 13th of June 2018, regarding an incident with another student citing attitude and behaviour as the areas of concern.

4. The student lodged a complaint with The Quality Commission through ITENZ (Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand) in July 2018. The complaint related to numerous negative experiences that she had primarily with teaching staff that she believes effected the quality of the course. ITENZ advised the student to redirect this complaint to the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme.

5. The student also raised these concerns directly with the provider through email and during multiple in-person meetings between the student and provider in May and June 2018.

6. In an email dated 19 June 2018, the provider confirmed that a resolution agreement had not been reached and advised that they had taken the step of referring the matter to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

7. The provider offered to waive the fees  of further studies (a Level 4 course) in good faith, to remedy the situation, however due to personal reasons the student has declined to accept this remedy and seeks a refund of $10,000 for the (Level 3 course that was undertaken).

8. The student does not believe the issues raised were managed in a fair or satisfactory manner and has made a complaint to the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme on 27 August 2018.

9. Negotiations took place through the practitioner, however, the student declined to meet in mediation with the provider and accordingly, a resolution could not be reached. I now proceed to issue an adjudicated decision on the complaint.


Outcome

10. In accordance with the jurisdiction under which the International Students Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme operates, a decision has been made with regards to the contractual relationship between the student and provider.

11. As it is not in dispute that the student enrolled in, paid for and completed the course in question, the provider has met their contractual obligation in this regard. Accordingly, the student’s complaint is dismissed.

12. Both the student and provider were given a further ten days to provide additional submissions upon receipt of the proposed decision. No further correspondence was received and accordingly, the proposed decision is now made final.
 

Background

13. Although documentation has not been provided, the student accepted an offer to study with the provider in the [redacted] course, a 20-week, full-time course that was undertaken from January to June, 2018.

14. In May 2018, the student met with the provider and subsequently raised by email, multiple concerns relating primarily to staff conduct. The first piece of correspondence dated 16 May, 2018 requested that the provider: “Please treat this e-mail as a formal complaint that you need to address officially and respond with your comments within the reasonable time.”

15. The provider confirmed that: “…your complaint will be treated as a priority.”

16. This was followed by further email correspondence on 13 June 2018, outlining the Student’s expectations in terms of the course and stated that they: “feel that my whole student experience has been ruined. I personally faced total disrespect, racism and prejudice which is totally unacceptable.” The student also required a refund of the course fees as a result and advised that she would seek a formal process of requesting this remedy if an agreement were not reached by 15 June 2018.

17. A further meeting was held on 15 June 2018, which was summarised by the provider in e-mail correspondence sent 19 June 2018. The provider apologised that the course did not meet the student’s expectations but advised after a full investigation was undertaken, the provider believed the extent of the issues raised to be unsubstantiated.

18. This correspondence also confirmed to the student that the provider had: “…taken the step of referring this matter to NZQA…”

19. Further, the provider noted that they: “…categorically deny any form of racism, prejudice or otherwise inappropriate conduct…” It was noted that the request for a refund of fees was declined and that the matter would be raised with NZQA for further consideration.

20. Correspondence received from the provider titled ‘Timeline of Events re [redacted]’ indicate that the student was made aware on 6 June 2018, of the formal process that would be undertaken but that the outcome of that investigation would remain confidential due to the employment nature of the issues raised. 

21. The Student lodged a complaint with the International Student Complaint Contracts Dispute Resolution Scheme on 27 August 2018. The complaint was recorded as:

I am an international student who took (course details). I faced disrespect, health and safety violations, prejudice (which had racism grounds as I feel), threatening by a tutor and bullying during my studies at (provider name). All issues are described in the emails (attached in formal complaint form) that I sent to (provider name), some of them I consider to be very serious and definitely below academic standards advertised by (the provider). I feel that (the provider) failed all my expectations and I filed a complaint to ITENZ quality commission on 16 July 2018. ITENZ quality commission responded on 24 August 2018 and said that I should re-address it to iStudent.


Student’s Position

22. The student confirmed that they are no longer enrolled with the provider, however, they did successfully finish the enrolled course. They do not wish to return to the provider to complete further studies as offered.

23. The student does not believe that the Provider met the expected level of pastoral care in terms of course quality and respect relating to the conduct of teaching staff and that a refund of $10,000 should be made on that basis.


Provider’s Position

24. The provider’s position is that the successful completion of the course by the student should be taken into consideration as the issues raised have therefore not resulted in a financial loss to the student.

25. Moreover, the provider’s also believes there has been no breach with regards to their international student pastoral care obligations and that the matters raised by the student were addressed in a timely and sufficient manner, with the process, including the confidential nature of any outcome the investigation may have.
 

Discussion

26. There are two questions the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme must determine:

26.1 First, has the provider met their obligations in terms of the contractual relationship with the student.

26.2 Second, if not, is the $10,000 requested refund a fair and sufficient remedy to the student’s complaint.

27. To determine the first question, I must consider the jurisdiction of the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme which is the context under which the decision is made.

28. The terms on which the student became enrolled with the provider is not disputed. On this basis, it appears that the provider has met their contractual obligations to the student, being the provision of the [redacted] course.

29. As such, there is no contractual basis for the student’s complaint and it is therefore dismissed.

30. Following this, it is not necessary to examine further the second question set out at [25.2] as to whether the student has a financial claim against the provider.
 

Conclusion

31. The provider has met their obligations in providing the (course details) to the student who completed the certificate in June 2018. Accordingly, the student’s complaint is dismissed.

32. Both the student and provider were given a further ten days to provide additional submissions upon receipt of the proposed decision. No further correspondence was received and accordingly, the proposed decision is now made final.

 

Dated: 27 December 2018  
Anthony Syder
Adjudicator
International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme